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Monday, 27 November, 2000, 12:22 GMT
China wants extradition talks
Prime Minister Zhu Rongji
Prime Minister Zhu Rongji has promised to end corruption
China is seeking talks with Canada to secure the extradition of the man behind the country's biggest corruption scandal, according to state media.

Lai Chang Xing, described as China's most wanted man, is accused of smuggling more than $6bn worth of contraband goods into south-east Fujian province.

He was detained in Vancouver for breach of immigration regulations last week after a year on the run.

The China Daily said Premier Zhu Rongji had pledged to seek Mr Lai's extradition "through diplomatic means".

The cities where the trials are taking place
The Yuanhua trials are being held in five cities
However Canadian officials indicated there had not been any formal extradition demand or request for dialogue from the Chinese side.

Beijing and Ottawa do not have an extradition agreement and previous incidents have been handled on a case-by-case basis.

Correspondents say that if Mr Lai returns to China, he is all but certain to face the death penalty, which may make the Canadian authorities hesitant to hand him over.

Death sentence

The corruption scandal has stunned all China in its scale and in the apparent ease with which Mr Lai bought off the Xiamen city government.

From 1996 he allegedly imported vast quantities of crude oil, cars and consumer goods without declaring them to customs.

Fourteen people have already been sentenced to death for their roles in the scandal known as the Yuanhua case.

More than 70 others have received prison terms ranging between three years and life. Those jailed are said to include two of Mr Lai's brothers.

Crackdown

Meanwhile, two senior members of China's legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), have been sacked over corruption charges.

Cong Fukui was formerly the executive deputy governor of Hebei province in northern China and Zhang Erchen was mayor of Hebei's capital Shijiazhuang.

Mr Cong allegedly accepted bribes, while Mr Zhang is being investigated for what the state media called major economic crimes.

Chinese leaders have vowed to stamp out corruption which is eroding popular support for communist rule.

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See also:

08 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
China sentences 14 officials to death
13 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Corruption: End of China's Party?
09 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese corruption partner gets life
21 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Three Gorges corruption scandal
08 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Top Chinese official executed
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